Nanomaterials have the potential to improve many next-generation technologies. They promise to speed up computer chips, increase the resolution of medical imaging devices and make electronics more energy efficient. But imbuing nanomaterials with the right properties can be time consuming and costly. A new, quick and inexpensive method for constructing diamond-based hybrid nanomaterials could soon launch the field forward.
University of Maryland researchers developed a method to build diamond-based hybrid nanoparticles in large quantities from the ground up, thereby circumventing many of the problems with current methods. The technique is described in the June 8, 2016 issue of the journal Nature Communications.
The process begins with tiny, nanoscale diamonds that contain a specific type of impurity: a single nitrogen atom where a carbon atom should be, with an empty space right next to it, resulting from a second missing carbon atom. This "nitrogen vacancy" impurity gives each diamond special optical and electromagnetic properties.
[caption id="attachment_30331" align="alignright" width="300"] This electron microscope image shows a hybrid nanoparticle consisting of a nanodiamond (roughly 50 nanometers wide) covered in smaller silver nanoparticles that enhance the diamond's optical properties. Credit: Min Ouyang[/caption]
By attaching other materials to the diamond grains, such as metal particles or semiconducting materials known as "quantum dots," the researchers can create a variety of customisable hybrid nanoparticles, including nanoscale semiconductors and magnets with precisely tailored properties.
"If you pair one of these diamonds with silver or gold nanoparticles, the metal can enhance the nanodiamond's optical properties. If you couple the nanodiamond to a semiconducting quantum dot, the hybrid particle can transfer energy more efficiently," said Min Ouyang, an associate professor of physics at UMD and senior author on the study.